Tuyen Le Awarded NSF Grant for Intelligent Hearing Protection

September 18, 2019


Dr. Tuyen Le was awarded and NSF Grant to investigate a new wearable hearing protection technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to amplify safety-critical sounds and help locate their source, while greatly attenuating ambient noise. This Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier project will create intelligent hearing protection devices (HPDs) for workers in settings with hazardous noise volumes. Long-term exposure to high levels of noise can cause serious mental and physical health problems. However, hearing protection that simply blocks all sound also eliminates importa nt safety cues, such as audible alarms. The resulting reduction in situational awareness can greatly increase the risk of serious industrial accidents.

If successful, this project will enable the development of an AI-based HPD solution to preserve auditory situational awareness while providing comprehensive hearing protection. The result has the potential to improve job performance and safety, and minimize occupational hearing loss for the approximately 22 million U.S. workers that are exposed to hazardous noise levels each year, with the associated social and economic cost savings. It can be difficult to convince employers and workers to accept new wearable safety equipment. Thus, this project includes technological, psychological, and socioeconomic research components, to achieve a complete understanding of the factors controlling intelligent HPD adoption and deployment.